888 Holdings has stressed that all compliance failures cited by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in its £19.2m enforcement action against William Hill have been addressed.
The LSE gaming group issued a statement this afternoon outlining that it had moved to improve and address William Hill’s shortcomings on social responsibility and anti-money laundering after finalising its £2bn acquisition of the UK legacy bookmaker in June 2022.
888 had already been notified by the Commission that William Hill was due a financial penalty for compliance failures between May 2020 and October 2021, and had accounted for the £19.2m charge in its latest trading update.
“The settlement relates to the period when William Hill was under the previous ownership and management.” – read a statement by 888.
“After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan.”
Upon acquiring William Hill last summer, 888 took ownership of the UK business some eight months after the last compliance infraction took place. Terms for the M&A had been agreed in September 2021, one month before the last incident cited by the UKGC.
The compliance failures instead took place when William Hill was a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment, which purchased the company in September 2020, completing the takeover in April the following year.
Caesars ownership of the full group would be short lived, however, as the company was primarily interested in William Hill’s US holdings as a means to strengthen its standing in the rapidly expanding stateside online wagering market.
888 was keen to emphasise that, in addition to addressing the historic compliance problems at William Hill following its takeover of the firm, it is committed to meeting the UKGC’s mission to strengthen social responsibility in UK betting.
The group’s statement continued: “The entire group shares the GC’s commitment to improve compliance standards across the industry and we will continue to work collaboratively with the regulator and other stakeholders to achieve this.”
Although 888 had accounted for the William Hill penalty in its last trading update – in which it registered a 3% year-on-year revenue decline to £1.85bn (£1.907bn) – the UKGC penalty is indicative of troubles the firm has faced in integrating the bookmaker into its group.
The company has set paying off £347m in loans as a key objective for 2023 after closing 2022 with debts of £1.8bn, much of which was related to the William Hill takeover, and financial uncertainty has seen 888 drop off both the FTSE250 and 350 indexes.
In January, 888 hit national headlines as the group was forced to admit a series of compliance failures related to VIP accounts in the Middle East – an incident which saw Itai Pazner step down as CEO.
Company Chairman Lord Mendelsohn continues to lead an executive search for 888’s new CEO, in which investors will be updated in the firm’s imminent FY2022 trading results.